Pakistani COVID-19 patient recovers with plasma therapy

A worker wearing a protective face mask and gloves holds a spray bottle to disinfect customers outside a shop in a market, after Pakistan started easing lockdown as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Peshawar, Pakistan May 11, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 May 2020

Pakistani COVID-19 patient recovers with plasma therapy

  • Trials have begun in several cities across the country, National Institute of Blood Diseases’ chief tells Arab News
  • Pakistan is witnessing a further spike in infections as the total tally crosses 30,000

ISLAMABAD: A 53-year-old COVID-19 patient has recovered from the disease with the help of plasma therapy, the head of Pakistan’s National Institute of Blood Diseases (NIBD) told Arab News on Sunday, marking a breakthrough for authorities grappling with the outbreak across the country.
“I can confirm to you that the first coronavirus (COVID-19) patient, treated with passive immunization of plasma therapy, has recovered and has been moved to his home from the hospital,” said Dr. Tahir Shamsi, who is also a renowned haematologist, without divulging the individual’s identity citing a confidentiality clause.
He added that the recovery time in such cases is usually two weeks, but that the patient “tested negative after seven days.”
The development follows the Liaquat University Hospital — one of three clinically approved trial centers for convalescent plasma in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province — confirming to Arab News last week that it was treating a 53-year-old COVID-19 patient with the help of plasma therapy.
The process involves using the plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, who have antibodies in their blood, to fight the disease.
With 20 new deaths reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 659, Pakistan is witnessing a spike in the number of infections, which crossed the 30,000 mark on Monday, with 8,023 recoveries reported so far.
To limit the spread of the disease, Shamsi said: “Plasma therapy trials have begun in other cities such as Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore, Sialkot, Islamabad and Peshawar.”
He added that large-scale plasma therapy procedures needed government approval, citing the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) as an example.

The NHS established clinical trials across the country and requested COVID-19 patients who recovered from the disease to donate their plasma.
Another example, Shamsi said, is the US, which has also launched clinical trials for passive immunization programs, with a large number of individuals registering themselves for plasma donations.
Dr. Saqib Hussain Ansari, a haematologist at the NIBD, urged more people to emulate the UK and US by donating blood.

“In Pakistan, blood donation is not in fashion, but organizations involved in blood donation motivation, celebrities and spiritual leaders can play a key role in spreading awareness,” he said.
Ansari added that passive immunization is not a new medical treatment and has been in practice for the past 125 years. “In the recent past, plasma therapy was used to cure patients of Ebola virus and influenza,” he said.

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Joint US military drills get thumbs down from Thais amid coronavirus fears

Updated 3 min 24 sec ago

Joint US military drills get thumbs down from Thais amid coronavirus fears

  • Some 106 American soldiers will join three separate exercises from Aug. 18 to 30
  • ‘Is it really necessary to take in foreign soldiers now? If it does not impact the relationship just postpone it’

BANGKOK: This month’s joint US-Thai military exercises in Thailand have drawn criticism from Thais on social media after authorities announced that dozens of visiting American troops would be undergoing their mandatory 14-day quarantine in Bangkok hotels.
Some 106 American soldiers will join three separate exercises from Aug. 18 to 30 in three provinces and would be subjected to the same requirements as anyone entering the country, said the head of the Thai Army’s anti-COVID-19 Unit, Nattapon Srisawat.
Thailand has been over two months without a local transmission and has kept infections to just over 3,300.
It has closed borders and airspace to tourists to keep the virus out and allows entry only to Thai repatriates or foreigners with special permission. All must undergo quarantine.
A popular Thai Facebook page attracted 25,000 likes when it questioned the necessity of holding joint exercises between the two historic allies amid a global health crisis.
“Is it really necessary to take in foreign soldiers now? If it does not impact the relationship just postpone it,” it said.
“Even citizens who need to travel have delayed their plans, why can’t the military training be postponed?”
More than 70 American soldiers arrived from the US Pacific territory of Guam on Monday and would be staying in alternative state quarantine, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the country’s coronavirus task force, referring to the mandatory quarantine that foreigners must undergo at their own expense.
More troops were due to arrive on Tuesday from Japan.
Asked about the criticism of the drills, Nattapon said that participants will have undergone two tests and would not be exposed to the public during the exercises.
“These soldiers will not be able leave the barracks,” he added.
The exercises come as Thailand’s military suspended sending forces abroad after nine Thai personnel tested positive for the coronavirus upon return from training in Hawaii.
The US embassy in Bangkok did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.